Anime Spotlight: Robotech

I can still vividly remember my first exposure to Robotech. One afternoon during the summer of 1985, I was flipping through the channels and stopped on one of the local independent television stations in Spokane, Washington at the time. When I stopped on the station, an animated program I had never seen before caught my eye. Having spent some of my early years in Japan, I instantly recognized it as being Japanese in origin. I stopped to watch it, and discovered it was called Robotech; later, I would come to realize that I actually caught the very first episode of the series. The storytelling caught my interest, and by the time the episode ended, I was hooked. I made sure to tune in again the next day, and I watched the series all the way through to its conclusion.

Later, I learned that Robotech was actually made up of three different Japanese anime series that weren’t originally interconnected: Super Dimension Fortress Macross, Super Dimensional Cavalry Southern Cross, and Genesis Climber Mospeada. Carl Macek, the man at Harmony Gold who was responsible for taking these three properties and tying them together into one show, created a concept called “protoculture,” which became the thread that tied everything together. Unfortunately, “protoculture” was never truly defined in the series, and to me, it always came across as some vague concept.

Macross

Super Dimension Fortress Macross made up the first third of Robotech, and it has become known as the “Macross” portion of the series.

The “Macross” section of the story opens with a super-dimensional spaceship crash-landing on the island of Macross, and this event brings about the end of the Global Civil War. The governments of the world banded together to rebuild the ship and to design mecha that was based on their newly-acquired Robotechnology.

During the ship’s inaugural flight, an alien race called the Zentraedi appears to reclaim their spaceship and the Protoculture that it possesses. As this portion of Robotech progresses, not only must the protagonists deal with the Zentraedi, but the SDF-1’s crew also has to deal with interpersonal relationships. Music also plays an integral role in the “Macross” portion of the story.

Well-known characters from this saga include Rick Hunter, Lisa Hayes, Lynn Minmei, Lynn Kyle, Max, Miriya, Roy Fokker, Claudia Grant, Admiral Gloval, Breetai, Exedore, and Khyron.

Of the three series that make up Robotech, I would have to say that Super Dimension Fortress Macross is my personal favorite.

The Masters

Super Dimensional Cavalry Southern Cross made up the second third of Robotech, and it has become known as “The Masters” portion of the series.

“The Masters” picks up fifteen years after the end of the “Macross” portion, and it deals with the Robotech Masters arriving at Earth looking for the SDF-1 and the Protoculture it possesses. The protagonists of this portion are the 15th Squadron, which is led by Dana Sterling (the daughter of Max and Miriya from the “Macross” portion of Robotech). Dana, along with her teammates Bowie Grant, Angelo Dante, Sean Phillips, and Louis Nichols become instrumental in the conflict between the Earth and the Robotech Masters.

Other well-known characters from “The Masters” include Marie Crystal, Nova Satori, Rolf Emerson, Anatole Leonard, Zor Prime, and Musica.

Of the three portions of Robotech, I would have to say that “The Masters” is the weak link in the chain. This is due in large part to the fact that the connections between “Macross” and “The Masters” feel rather forced. Of course, it doesn’t help that the series that served as the source material of “The Masters” was never actually completed before it was canceled in Japan.

New Generation

Genesis Climber Mospeada made up the final section of Robotech, and it has become known as the “New Generation” portion of the series.

The “New Generation” saga focuses on an alien race called the Invid. At the beginning of the series, the Invid, led by their leader, the Regis, come to Earth. The Invid have come to the planet to claim the Protoculture and to enslave the human race. The Mars Division of the Robotech Expeditionary Force comes to Earth to try to defeat the Regis at her main hive, which is called Reflex Point. During a battle in space, the crew of the Mars Division is lost, expect for Lieutenant Scott Bernard.

Scott crash lands on Earth, and he decides to carry out the mission to get to and destroy Reflex Point. During his journey, he ends up assembling a ragtag force of freedom fighters: Rand, Rook Bartley, Annie, Lunk, and Lancer (who moonlights as a singer named Yellow Dancer).

Other notable characters in “New Generation” include Marlene/Ariel, Sera, and Corg.

In my opinion, while “New Generation” may not be as strong as “Macross,” it overall works better than “The Masters” portion of the saga did.

Robotech: The Movie

Robotech: The Movie was created by using a combination of footage from the Japanese Original Video Anime (OVA) Megazone 23 Part 1, reused footage from the “Southern Cross” saga of Robotech, and newly-created footage. Unfortunately, after having such a poor test run in Texas, the American release of the film was canceled. However, the film had limited success in Argentina and Belgium.

While portions of the film have been released on some DVD releases for Robotech, it has never been released in its entirety. To be honest, I suspect that the entire film will never see the light of day ever again. By going from what I’ve read about this film over the years, all I can say about it is that it was probably a trainwreck.

Robotech: The Sentinels

This American-produced series would have followed Rick and Lisa Hunter and the Robotech Expedition during the time period covered in “The Masters” and “New Generation” sagas. Unfortunately, when toy partner Matchbox pulled out of the project, Harmony Gold lacked the funds needed to produce the 65 episode series, and the project was canceled.

What footage had been completed before the project’s cancellation was re-edited and rewritten as a feature-length production. This version was released on VHS by Palladium Books and on DVD by ADV Films.

I have actually had the opportunity to see this feature. It really isn’t too bad for what it is, but it’s obvious from the way it ends that there should be more to the story. I had read the novelizations of Robotech previous to this, which had included The Sentinels, and Rick and Lisa’s wedding was something I had wished I could have seen. This production was able to grant me that wish.

Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles

In 2007, a sequel movie called Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles was produced by Harmony Gold as a continuation of where the “New Generation” saga leaves off, with a little bit of overlap with the end of the “New Generation” saga. Bascially, the plot revolves around the Robotech Expeditionary Force’s final battle with the Invid, as well as the arrival of an old enemy of the Invid who are determined to wipe out all Protoculture users.

As a long-time fan of Robotech, I have to say that I was rather disappointed in Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles. The attempt at combining cel animation with CG looked rather clunky and cheap, there were a lot of continuity problems between the original Robotech series and The Shadow Chronicles, and the story was weak.

Nearly 20 years after I watched Robotech on television in first-run syndication, I was finally able to see the original versions of Super Dimension Macross, Super Dimensional Cavalry Southern Cross, and Genesis Climber Mospeada. I have to be honest and say that I thought that the original series were better than Robotech; however, Robotech will always hold a nostalgic place in my heart.

However, as a testament to Robotech, it has continued to have a strong following over 20 years after its debut. It’s also considered to be one of the classic anime series from the 1980s.

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